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Warning signs

Suicide is preventable, and anyone can help by learning more about the facts, risk factors, warning signs and what to do if you or a loved one is in an emergency.

Please keep in mind that this information does not replace seeking professional help or advice from your doctor.

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Suicide warning signs

Learning the warning signs of suicide could save someone’s life. While an individual may not be experiencing all of these warning signs, most people will experience more than one for an extended period of time. Signs range from obvious to subtle, so it’s important to know what to look for and what to do next if you do notice these behaviors. Watch for a change from the individual’s typical behavior.


You may notice them withdrawing from previously enjoyed activities or friends.

Sleeping changes

They may begin sleeping too much or too little.

Behaving recklessly 

This behavior could look like driving without a license, drug and alcohol use, shoplifting, driving at excessive speeds, etc. because they no longer care about what happens to them.

Drinking or using substances excessively

They may increase their use of drugs or alcohol or begin to drink when they have never shown interest in it previously.

Experiencing unexplainable physical pain

One of the most commonly overlooked warning signs of depression and/or suicide is someone continually experiencing unexplained aches and pains in their body.

Saying goodbye

People who are thinking about suicide may say goodbye to their friends and family.

Giving away possessions

Possessions they have previously shown great interest in may be given away because they think they will no longer have a use for them.

Talking or writing about wanting to die

People who do this are not simply “looking for attention,” as we often hear people say. Take this very seriously! Whether it’s a conversation with a friend, a writing or art assignment at school, a journal entry or any other expression of death, it should be taken extremely seriously.

Feeling hopeless

This often sounds like “I’m worthless,” “nothing is going well” or “everything is just too much.” Take this language very seriously.

Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain

They may feel like they are stuck or in so much pain that there is no other way to improve their current situation.

Displaying extreme mood swings 

They may display unexplainable mood swings that are out of character for them.

Looking for a way to kill themselves

They may research how to buy a gun or lethal drugs on the internet or ask people about methods.

Talking about being a burden

This may sound like “everyone would be better off without me” or “things will be easier without me here.”

Acting anxious or agitated

They may act overly anxious or agitated for no explainable reason.

Experiencing increased anger or rage

They may experience unexplainable anger or rage that’s out of character for them.

Suicide risk and protective factors

Some factors may cause people to be at a higher risk for suicide. The presence of a single risk factor doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is at high risk of suicide, but a number of risk factors together should signal concern. The presence of depression or bipolar disorder, hopelessness and/or substance misuse, in combination with other risk factors, increases an individual’s risk of suicide significantly.

The presence of multiple protective factors can help reduce risk of suicidal behavior. The more protective qualities a person has, the lower their risk for suicide.

Risk factors

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Mental health disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders and alcohol and substance use disorders
  • Family history of suicide
  • Hopelessness, thoughts and feelings of being a burden to others
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment when it is needed
  • Relational, social, work or financial loss
  • Major physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods, especially guns
  • Lack of connectedness, social support
  • Substance misuse
  • History of trauma or abuse, particularly sexual abuse
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Losing a loved one to suicide
  • Bullying, harassment or victimization by peers
  • Persistent, serious family conflict

Protective factors

  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Positive self-image
  • Spiritual life/faith
  • Close family relationships
  • Strong peer support systems
  • Involvement in hobbies or activities
  • Community connectedness
  • Access to treatment
  • Restricted access to lethal means


Source:, Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

How to help

Whether you’re currently concerned for a loved one or want to prepare for future situations, learn how to start the conversation, create a safety plan and get help. 

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You are not alone

If you or a loved one are experiencing mental health problems or suicidal thoughts, we’re here to help you learn more about local and national resources and to find help. 

Explore hotlines, inpatient facilities and community resources for yourself, a friend or a family member in crisis.